The debate about knowledge vs skills is showing no signs of going away any time soon. Lucy Powell’s speech earlier this week on the importance of skills, made at the Schools Week fringe at the annual Labour Party conference, will only fuel the debate.
Eddie Playfair writes here about the three types of ways to think about the school curriculum identified by Michael Young. He describes powerful knowledge as “embodies values of objectivity, openness to challenge, rationalism and respect for all humans”. If schools moved to looking at powerful knowledge, he argues, it “would set us on a pathway of pretty radical pedagogic and curriculum innovation”.
By Jonny Walker
The part of this blog that has stayed with me and that I’ve found myself quoting to other teachers is: “On occasion, it is presumed that I am the senior member of staff, even when I am surrounded by a range of older and more experienced female colleagues. Even when the staff hierarchy had been explained, I was once addressed as though I was in charge — as if my ‘not being the decision-maker’ is merely modesty on my part.”
Challenge the next cold caller who asks to speak to “Mr” before “Mrs”, the salesperson who defers to the male you are with, the waiter who asks the male to taste the wine. We have to do this if we want things to change for our female pupils because our classrooms are nothing if not a reflection of our wider society.
I really enjoyed this blog and argument for teachers having the freedom to innovate and design a curriculum based on the needs and interests of the children in their class.
“Teachers adapt curriculum content to capitalise on the interest and enthusiasm within their classes and to reflect their own passions. They take advantage of the opportunities life affords them to teach meaningfully . . . Teaching is relational and children need to know what makes us tick. Teaching happens in the moment and often can’t be planned.”
There is a real danger that as teachers and heads buy into the idea that a good teacher is what makes all the difference, to the exclusion of issues such poverty and “life”, then teachers will search for the expert with the answers. If only they had the right mathematics curriculum designed by an expert with a “mastery” of the subject, then all of the issues that affect our children will disappear and somehow the school results will improve.
With perfect timing, as teachers frantically gather together the expected weight of evidence for “that” performance management review meeting, this blog reminds us that the idea of “expected progress” is nonsense. I had a moment of revelation yesterday where the tension between Ofsted and Ofqual was pointed out to me. With Ofsted we have a body that expects schools to improve year on year and evidence this by ever-improving grades. Ofqual, on the other hand, wants a similar number of children each year to achieve the different grades. This started me thinking about how bizarre and dangerous the situation is that schools find themselves in when we all worship the god of data.
I’m sure we can all agree, name and know, children who have not made “expected progress.” Maybe it’s because of their personal circumstances but maybe it’s because the data we used to judge progress is fatally flawed to start with.
“I’ll conclude by saying that numbers in education are fuzzy, and badly measured at best,” says this blogger. “Levels have been discontinued for any number of reasons, and it is generally agreed that they were, at best, an inadequate measure of children’s progress. Progress isn’t linear, and individual children can’t be expected to follow national trends. Expected progress simply does not apply at individual or class level and should not determine whether or not you are doing your job well.”